Dating Dilemma: What to Do When You’re Ghosted
Everything is going well with you and your new love. You’re getting along, the connection is great, and you hope things will get more serious. Suddenly, there is a shift, and you notice something between you is off. Your partner used to laugh at all your dry jokes, but suddenly your humor elicits annoyance. Your texts and calls used to be returned almost immediately, but now it takes hours, and sometimes days, before you hear back. Before you know it, you’ve realized you haven’t heard from your love in weeks. The sad reality is you’ve been ghosted.
If you’ve been the victim of ghosting, you have some company. A poll found roughly 10% of Americans have admitted to ghosting someone they no longer wanted to see. Why are some people afraid to admit the spark is gone? The Cheat Sheet reached out to love, intimacy, and sexuality coach Michele Fabrega for some answers.
The Cheat Sheet: Why do some people “ghost” when a relationship is not working out?
Michele Fabrega: Sometimes, people choose to abruptly end contact in a dating relationship; this is nothing new. Although back before the internet it was less common since people met each other in the course of their daily lives and the likelihood of seeing a person you used to date was high — so were the stakes of abruptly dropping contact with them. Word would get around and that would negatively affect the “ghoster.” I propose that public embarrassment, even shame, provided a balancing force to keep people from acting out of integrity with themselves and with each other.
With people meeting over the internet, and the relative anonymity it brings, it’s easier for someone to just disappear without having a communication about the ending of a relationship. Most people would find it uncomfortable to tell someone that they weren’t interested in dating anymore, and we humans have a tendency to avoid discomfort, conflict, and uncertainty. The person might get angry and lash out; or they may feel hurt and start crying. We don’t know how they’ll react. So some of us may choose to avoid the interaction if we can get away with it. If you are someone who cuts off contact with others, you might want to inquire further about this behavior of yours. It’s a key relationship skill to be willing to disappoint your partner, and ending a dating relationship cleanly and clearly is an opportunity for you to practice this skill.
CS: What types of people are most likely to disappear?
MF: Anyone who isn’t willing to have a difficult conversation. And since all relationships, at times, require difficult conversations, I’d like to quote Byron Katie: “You’ve been spared.” You may never know why the person disappeared and it’s probably for the best that you aren’t involved with this person anymore. If someone doesn’t want to respond, they won’t; I don’t recommend continuing to contact them. I do suggest that you send this person a little loving kindness and a wish that they are able to step up to a higher level of integrity in the future. Because really, what is the impact on them? A person who has a pattern of incompletions in their connections with other people accumulates emotional baggage, maybe even shame, and a loss of self-respect over time. Besides the external cost of potentially meeting this person again at a job interview, a social event, a school function, a business meeting, etc., when we treat others without kindness or respect, it takes a toll on our sense of self. The notion of karma or the saying, “what goes around, comes around,” sort of captures this idea. When we are in harmony and in integrity with ourselves and with others, even with people we never meet again, we feel more loving and peaceful in our hearts and more accepting of ourselves.
CS: How can you heal from this?
MF: The best way to heal from being dropped is to share your feelings with a trusted friend, a therapist, or a coach. You might even want to imagine having a conversation with the person who dropped you. The goal here is to experience, express, and release the emotional charge you have about it. This process from the Interchange Counseling Institute is great to use.
CS: What can you do to prevent someone from ghosting you?
MF: If you want to reduce the chances of someone ghosting you, I suggest you talk about this early on in a new relationship. Share your concerns and make an agreement that you’ll stay in contact until you both have a conversation to choose to end the contact. Obviously, you can’t prevent it from happening, but you’ll learn a lot about the person by opening up this dialogue.
Another way to reduce the chances of being ghosted is to only date people that you get to know in person first, like through friends, meetup groups, and other social events. When we meet in a social field, we lower the chances of someone ghosting us. The community provides a sort of social insurance against it.
CS: What should you do if you are ghosted on a regular basis?
MF: As much as I hate to “blame the victim,” if you are ghosted regularly in your dating relationships or even in friendships, there could be something in your own behavior that contributes to this treatment from others. Perhaps you aren’t paying attention to what the other is telling you or showing you. Perhaps your behavior is making the other uncomfortable and they are choosing to break contact with you out of regard for their own personal safety. People are only willing to share their honest feedback with another if they think the person can handle it. Ask yourself, “Am I available and willing to receive feedback?” You may want to find a coach or therapist to work with if you notice a pattern of others breaking contact with you.
I look forward to a world where people have the skills to end a relationship with respect, kindness, and honest communication rather than leave their “love litter” on the side of the road. Who’s in?
Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo